A few weeks ago I got an email from a beginner blogger who had some questions about her blog. She wanted to know what she should be blogging about in order to grow her traffic and build a community. I considered her question for a minute and then froze. How would I even begin to answer that?
So I thought about it and started drafting out a reply with some tips. When I’d gotten halfway through, I read back over what I’d written and had a realisation: what was I doing?
A number of thoughts ran through my head at this point.
- Why was I telling this girl what to write about?
- Is it possible to tell someone how to build a blog in just one email?
- Why had she emailed me?
So even as an someone who's been blogging for early three years, I still have moments of panic whenever I get a direct email that asks for my help.
And the truth is, every blogger does.
No one has the answer. No one has the step-by-step formula. No one has the magic trick tucked away in their secret blogging box. So it really makes me uneasy when other bloggers shout from the rooftops about what you should be blogging about.
Should is a funny word, don’t you think? It’s like, when someone tells you that you should do something, where’s their authority to say that? Who’s to say you should believe them?
Sure, it’s definitely a good idea to have some standards, and there are some things that all bloggers do and know work well. But I also think that our blog is our own, and we’re all capable of making our own decisions.
Are there really set rules for what blogging should be like? Aren't there too many already? I’d say so. That’s why I’ll never tell you what your blog should be about. And here are a few more reasons why.
I'VE made blogging mistakes in the past
The perfect blogger doesn’t exist. We all do something wrong more than once throughout our journey and that’s not a bad thing either. Every single blogger, at some point, has questioned their decision over various different things.
I know I’ve made mistakes throughout my blogging career so far, some of which could've been absolute disasters (playing around with switching from Blogger to Squarespace and losing your whole website? SHEER PANIC!). So how could I sit there and say “here’s what you should write about for your blog to grow”, when I’m still learning myself?
Mistakes happen to everyone, but it’s learning from our mistakes that make us the strongest bloggers out there. If I hadn't made that mistake of losing my site when playing around with Squarespace, I might never have learnt everything about designing my own website, or had the confidence to start being more creative with my photography. I’m a firm believer in making mistakes and building yourself back up afterwards. If I’m here telling you what to blog about, how will you ever find out what works best for you?
Only you know what makes you happy
We all have interests and skills in various different things. Some of you can put together the perfect outfit every day. Some of you know how to make the easiest healthy meals out there, whilst some of you know how to take great photography. We’re all passionate about different things, heading towards different paths and different goals.
In reality, no two blogs will ever be the same. I know lots of bloggers who've spoken about how their content/images/site pages have been directly copied, but they take pride in the fact that it’ll never be truly like the thing that they created in the first place.
When it comes to what makes you happy, only you know that.
One thing I will suggest to beginner bloggers is that they figure out what makes them happy before they try and figure out what they want their blog to be about. Get a notebook and write down:
- What you can talk forever about
- What your hobbies are
- What people tell you you’re good at
- What makes you smile
- What fills you up with good, positive energy
It’s worth carrying a notebook with you at all times so you can jot down throughout the day all the good things that happen. You can then look at which of these you can turn into blog posts. If you come across similar themes, they’re the categories that should start to build the foundations of your blog.
And guess what? The answer will be different for everyone.
You set your own goals and expectations
Just like what makes us happy is different for all of us, so is our view on where we want ourselves and our blogs to be in the future.
For some, nothing less than 100,000 pageviews a month will do. While others might be content with reaching their 1,000 a month, plus some intentional interaction and community building.
For me, I’d like to get my blog to the stage where I get meaningful comments on every post, I’ve built up a strong brand and people know what ABOH is and what it stands for. Here are some questions I’ve found useful answering that you might too:
- In the next five years, where do I see my blog going?
- In the next five years, how do I see my blogging schedule panning out?
- In the next five years, how much of a priority do I want my blog to be?
When you’ve got a vision in mind, you can then figure out what you need to do to get there. And remember, it won’t happen overnight. Your changes don’t have to be immediate either. You can alter your content and schedule as you go, until you get to place that feels right for you.
Ultimately, no one has the authority to tell you what to blog about
I know I read too many articles every day, and a big number of them are about blogging. You know, articles about how this person reached this amount of followers doing this (without any real substance of how to actually get there yourself) or articles about the state of the blogosphere and why we should all be writing “advice” posts (without actually offering any tips on how to do that yourself).
I know that sounds harsh and I believe that not all advice posts are this way. I myself, write advice posts, but I always make sure they’re authentic and come from my own experiences with loads of actionable steps. I know a lot of other bloggers that do this too. It’s when everything on a blog is advice that’s the problem.
So I think those people who only offer advice need to come down a peg or two and get back to what makes blogging great in the first place – real-life.
Many people telling you what your blog SHOULD be about, because it helped them quit their job and become a full-time blogger, aren’t always thinking about you.
Because what worked for them might not necessarily work for you. I think that’s something a lot of people forget.
And if you think about it, those posts that are all “this is how I did this” or “this how I did that and here’s a course on it” – their blogs come across as more about them than lifestyle blogs do.
Because even though they’re thinking “this is going to be really useful for beginner bloggers because they’ll get to see where they could go”, it can also made those bloggers feel overwhelmed and sad, because they don’t have that many followers or pageviews, and they don’t think they ever will.
And what’s even more frustrating is that it’s not about followers or pageviews anyway.
So, what should your blog be like?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Do I feel comfortable blogging about these topics? (If no, you’re not blogging about what you want to)
- Is it way harder to create my blog posts than it should be? (If you answered yes, chances are you aren’t blogging about what’s right for you)
- Am I getting zero interaction? (If you answered yes, chances are you’ve not found your true blogging purpose and aren’t writing about what’s right for you)
- Do I feel happy writing, publishing and promoting my content? (If you answered no, chances are you’re not blogging about what’s right for you)
Now, you might have an idea of whether your blog is what you want it to be or not. And remember, categories are never set in stone. You can test out different topics with your audience to find the ones you’re happy with.
The most important thing is to create more than you consume. Listen to yourself and your instincts. Don’t do things just because others are. If something doesn’t feel right about your blog, change it.
If it feels right but someone else is telling you to do differently, so what? Who are they to set rules for your blog and tell you what you should and shouldn't be doing?
You named and created your blog for a reason. Because it’s yours.
So what do you think? Do you think we should be told what to blog about? How do you deal with coming up with new ideas for your content?